The teaching of English as a foreign language has changed a considerable amount over the many years it has been put into practice. Having had the opportunity to practice teaching using the communicative approach at Oxbridge we have been able to experience first-hand its effective and beneficial methodology. Whilst solely practising this way of teaching, we discussed various others, analysing their elements and techniques and debating the likelihood of their respective successful outcomes. Drawing from a selection of these methods I will be looking further into their systems, weighing up their pros and cons and describing the way in which I would personally choose to approach teaching English as a foreign language.
I want to stress that although the success of a teaching method is heavily dependent on the lesson content, assessing the students’ needs and being able to adapt accordingly is also extremely important. Therefore the first component of my teaching method would be a needs analysis. Before beginning to teach I would take a number of affective factors about the students into consideration, including: their level of English, past learning experience, age, motivation and their short and long term objectives. This would add a personal touch to my teaching and not only enable me to plan and teach more effectively with the students’ needs in mind, thus allowing me to foresee any difficulties and create appropriate solutions, but also to start a basis for building rapport with them as it shows consideration for their individual requirements. I believe that this initial process is an integral part as without focus on the student and an idea of what they want to achieve, the teaching experience will not be successful.
Similarly to the Direct (Berlitz) Method, there would be
total immersion in the classroom with all input and output being in English,
thus avoiding interference from their native languages. I believe this is
completely necessary in the process of learning another language as
communication is primarily speech and, as it has been proved in past studies,
the ability to speak a foreign language is needed before being able to write
In my approach the teacher’s role would be one of guidance, rather than dominance, with focus on them demonstrating English to the student, instead of just plainly explaining the language’s rules. In the Grammar-Translation method, the teacher has authority in the classroom which I agree with to a certain extent, especially when teaching younger students. However in my approach I would favour a partnership between the students and teacher, who would act as more of a guide.
I would promote practice of the target language outside of the classroom, however I appreciate this can be difficult to achieve. Therefore I would maximise opportunity for students to practice output by minimising teacher talking time and use authentic materials/texts, such as current news articles, which encourage the practice of authentic language as well as enhance engagement.
Systems such as the Silent Way and Content based approaches steer away from a structured syllabus, and whilst I would refrain from the use of a strict syllabus, I believe them necessary guides in carrying out successful lessons. I would therefore reflect the Audio-Lingual Method, which teaches structural patterns before vocabulary, and favour one that is grammar and function based, as I believe these are the most useful in enabling the student to speak, whereas vocabulary is more likely to evolve naturally and can then be applied appropriately by the student to the acquired structures.
Text books would not be used in my approach as, in my personal experience, they
significantly hinder speaking practice and are therefore less successful in the
acquirement of another language. Like the Oxbridge system I would use a wide
range of activities which teach implicitly, allowing the student to acquire the
language subconsciously. I find that active practice embeds the language more
effectively than studying and memorising from a text book.
Reflecting the Direct Method, I would incorporate visual aids and realia into lessons as I believe them to be significant aids in the learning process due to their ability to engage students and prevent lessons from becoming too repetitive and boring.
I agree with the system of Suggestopedia which encourages a cheerful environment to facilitate teaching, an idea which is reflected in the Total Physical Response method, as I believe that learning is more effective when it is enjoyable. However, I find Suggestopedia’s use of fine arts, such as classical music and art, to be slightly excessive and would expect them to distract from the main aims of the lesson. Moreover, I find the Total Physical Response Method to be more appropriate for younger students who have a stronger need for active learning. I would favour the Oxbridge system which uses games as a strategy for student engagement but would limit the usage in my approach. Although I agree that fun learning is more effective, I also believe that a student has to be comfortable in order for the teaching process to be successful, and by using too many games you run the risk of alienating students who may be shyer and therefore less willing to participate. However, I would include activities such as role plays which require less and are more likely to appeal to every student.
The existing methodologies have diverse approaches to the balance between skills; for example, the Grammar-Translation method emphasises the importance of developing reading and writing primarily. In contrast, the Direct method and Audio-Lingual method stress the development of speaking and listening. Whilst I acknowledge that all four are of importance, I favour the systems which focus on the latter and in my teaching method would place a heavy focus on speaking and listening as opposed to reading and writing. As previously stated, this is due to my belief that the acquirement of a language depends heavily on the learner’s ability to speak it. However, I would use short reading exercises for all levels; this would monitor pronunciation of beginners and increase the vocabulary of the more advanced students. My approach to writing skills would depend on the requirements of the student, so for those who need to develop their written skills I would include short writing exercises. However in general I would discourage the practice of writing in place of speaking as, like Oxbridge, I believe such exercises are boring for the students and slow the class down.
My approach would encourage students to interact amongst themselves in English as, whilst I believe structure to a lesson is important, the aim would be for students to practice authentic language as it would be used in context. To achieve this I would let the conversation flow and make any necessary comments or corrections at natural pauses in the conversation.
Like the Audio-Lingual method which promotes positive reinforcement,
praise would be an important feature of my method as I believe it is necessary
for student encouragement and to build their confidence. The Silent Way
discourages praise to increase students’ self-reliance, and while I agree that
this in an important aspect in learning a language, I find praise necessary in
increasing confidence and motivation.
Systems such as the Grammar-Translation Method and Audio-Lingual method stress the importance of correcting mistakes and in the Callan Method students are given the correct answer or made to repeat the correct sentence after the teacher. I find this to be very ineffective as students are likely to forget the correction quickly and increases reliance on the teacher. Like the Communicative Approach I believe that errors are a natural part of the learning process and my approach would be tolerant, having the teacher guide corrections but encouraging self-correction from the students which I believe to be more beneficial.
There is no correct way of teaching and for that reason it is important for teachers to consider their personal approach. I believe that my method is effective for a wide range of students, however methods that are effective for some will not be beneficial for others, so it is important that the teacher takes all the students’ needs into consideration and is able to adapt accordingly as a great deal of the success of a lesson ultimately relies on the abilities of a teacher. In today’s society the ability to communicate is more important than ever, and in my approach to teaching the development of speaking skills is emphasised in order to facilitate this, ensuring that students practice this primary form of communication as much as possible.